Give Thanks to the LORD!

Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His mercy is everlasting. The redeemed of the LORD shall say so…” (Psalm 107:1, 2a NASB2020)

We, the redeemed of the LORD, are to give praise to our God! This seems obvious when we think of the good things He has done for us. However, when we think of the struggles of life we tend to forget about the many blessings we have from above. It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of a job, the race of paying off debt, the chaos that is a college campus, the extra-curricular activities of high school, or even the pleasures of pet ownership. Some of these are good, some are not so good, and others depend on the day and context; but we find that anything that takes our eyes away from the LORD is a problem. The Psalmist here tells us that we need to give thanks in all situations. 

We will see that if we turn from the ways of the world and walk in the ways of God we will find peace and reason to give thanks! First, he says we are redeemed from the hands of our enemy and gathered from foreign lands. Although it is not as common now, in ancient culture it was quite common for citizens of defeated nations to be carried off and scattered to prevent the nation from rebuilding. This happened to Israel many times in the Old Testament; time and time again God promised he would gather His people and He did just exactly that. For this His people would give thanks to the LORD!

God also delivers His people from hunger, thirst, unjust imprisonment, foolishness, and even illness. This is not to say that we will always be delivered from these situations but we do find that God takes pleasure in caring for us. When we are in these scenarios we need to call to Him to deliver us and give thanks to Him for His goodness. 

There are certainly times that we can feel like we are tossed here and there as if by the waves of the sea during a storm. Your waves may come from any number of areas of life but what we hold in common in these times is that we can be found at our wits’ end as it says in the 2020 NASB. The Psalmist says that when we find ourselves here we can cry out to Him and He can cause the storm to be still and bring us to the end of our distresses. Once the wind and waves stop we must not be tempted to just think, oh the storm died down. We must acknowledge and give thanks to God for stopping the storm. 

In the last 5 verses of Psalm 107 we read of a concept that Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, while here the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. I find this to be encouraging because even when the world punishes us for doing what God has called us to do, we can have faith that God will raise us beyond the judgment of the world. For that we should alway give thanks to the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 15-16 and Psalm 107

Stand Firm

Luke 21

Luke 21 19 NIV

I have had several opportunities to visit Arlington National Cemetery to witness the changing of the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. What never ceases to amaze me is the precision of their movements. Every step, every turn is synchronized to the second. Crowds gather well in advance in order to get a view. But once the ceremony concludes and the crowds disperse, the soldier is there to stand guard in silence and no interaction with another person for 30 minutes, which is when another guard comes to relieve him or her.

What is even more impressive than the precision of their movements is their dedication to the post. The Tomb has not been left unguarded since 1937. Through scorching heat and oppressive humidity, blizzards and hurricanes, these guards stand firm in their watch – 24/7/365. There isn’t anything that will take them away from this honor-filled assignment.
As I read through Luke 21, I was struck by the use of the word “stand” in verses 19, 28, and 36. Jesus is explaining to his disciples what to expect as they wait for his triumphant return. Persecution, betrayal, natural disasters, and wars will be the signs that will foretell of Christ’s return. And 3 different times, Jesus instructs his followers to stand firm through it all.
In verse 19, we’re promised that if we stand firm, we will gain life.
In verse 28, we’re promised that by standing up, we will receive redemption.
In verse 36, we’re promised that if we are attentive during the watch, we’ll be able to escape all the turmoil and stand before the Son of Man.
As followers of Jesus, we are not promised an easy life. We will experience figurative (and sometime literal – depending on where you live) heavy storms that wipe away all that you know. The question and challenge is – will you stand firm through it all knowing that the foundation on which you plant your feet is our Rock, Jesus Christ.
Bethany Ligon

Be More Open

Ephesians 1 18-19a

This week I have been talking a lot about all different New Year’s resolutions, that many Christians try to add into their lives every year around this time. Today, our last day is no different. This week I talked about looking for Jesus, and being willing to look silly for him, we looked at the story of Zacchaeus for this teaching. Then we looked at the parable of the talents in Matthew and talked about making good investments, not only with finances but also with the people that we surround ourselves with. We continued throughout the week talking about building our prayer lives, and trying to read our Bibles more. I also talked about striving for fellowship with other believers, and working on having more patience as well. (Let me tell you, patience is definitely one that I need to work on big time, and that is okay.)

The reading today is from Ephesians 1:15-21, & John 11:1-44

Today I am going to talk about something that is built into the rest of these “resolutions” this week. We as believers should be more open. How many times have you felt like you were not being heard, or that you were not hearing from God? How many times have you felt like absolutely nothing is going your way? Have you ever felt completely alone, and confused? God works in mysterious ways sometimes, and I am not always quick to understand what he is doing in my life, and I am sure you are the same. There have been times where I just want to ask God what in the world he is doing, because none of it makes sense to me, at all.

Sometimes I have felt like I was not being heard, or that God was not speaking to me, but I often forget to look in the little things. God gives us comfort when we need it, and he gives us hope and strength, and more often than not, it comes in ways that we would not have ever expected. This fall was one of the most difficult for my family, and I remember there being a few days where I felt lost and confused, worried, anxious and scared for so many things. There was one day in particular where I felt very lonely and forgotten. On that day I walked back to my room at school and on my door was a hot pink and sparkly card that said, “Peace, Love & Glitter.” I opened it and inside were many folded up little notes that had instructions on the outside that said, “Open when you need strength.” “Open when you need peace.” “Open when you need comfort” & me being the impatient person that I am, ( I said that I need to work on that) I opened all of them. Each note contained a Bible verse that had been hand picked by some of the residents in my building and given to me to help me through a tough time. This was God reaching his hand out to me and saying, “Hang on, I’m going to get you through this, I am always here, but I have given you people to lean on also.” Had I been closed off, I would not have been able to see the love and care that God was trying to show me through the people that he intentionally placed in my life.

One more moment I would like to share with you happened yesterday morning. A memory popped up on my facebook, and usually it is a post of pictures that my Grandma tagged me in years ago, but this time it was something that I said a year ago. This is what I said, “It’s always a good day when you get chills all over in the middle of a worship service. It’s like a big hug from God saying, ‘I’ve got you my child, I hear your praises, and I’ll never let you go.'” Again, this was a great reminder of how wonderful our God is, and as soon as I read this post on facebook I remembered the exact service I was at, and a wave of peace washed over me. If I was not open to hearing God in the moments that he makes himself known, in the moments where he is desperately reaching out to me, I may have missed these moments of peace and comfort. These moments that have gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life, and that I will bring with me into the countless storms of this life.

Ephesians 1 talks about Paul’s prayer for the hearts of the Ephesians to be open, that they would appreciate the calling of the Lord, that they would have their inheritance, and understand that power that God has, and they would know the reward for believers. That all sounds pretty awesome to me, God is going to give us rewards for being open to him and his powers. I feel like I have already been rewarded by being able to have a relationship with God, but I know that it will be better someday because the Kingdom of God will be here.

John 11:1-44. These verses are all about the resurrection of Lazarus. This is an important story because we see a blessing where Mary and Martha did not expect one, but because they were open to the power and love that God has and that God had given to his son they were able to receive a tremendous blessing. Their brother Lazarus died of an illness, and they had believed that if Jesus had been there, their brother would not have died. They believed him to already be gone, but because of their intense faith and belief and openness to the power of God and of his son Jesus Christ, their brother was resurrected and they were blessed beyond belief. (I am not saying your loved ones will be brought back to life right now because of your belief) but I am saying that there may be unexpected blessings in the little things, that you would not notice unless you are open minded.

I want to leave you this week with a couple of songs that I think follow this week well, and will support you as you possibly add some or all of these resolutions into your life.

Thank you for reading this week!

“Blessings”- Laura Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” – Michael W. Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnqb7Vn4AEE

-Thanks, Jana Swanson

The Storms of Life

Mark 4

Mark 4 41b

As I write this, masses are evacuating Florida in the anticipation of Hurricane Irma. By the time you read this, I hope that the storm has passed and that the loss will be minimal. I pray for the recovery teams who will be in the areas doing their best to help families begin to put lives back together.

 

In Mark 4 we read about another storm. One that scared the disciples beyond anything that they had ever experienced before. This huge squall was both a test and a teachable moment. Jesus was testing the men’s faith and trust in the Son of God. Jesus also used this time to teach the men the extent of His great power. If these men had any doubts before about who Jesus was and what He was able to do, His calming the winds and the waves certainly would have clarified any misconceptions, don’t you think?

 

I think that we all have to experience a storm or two in our relationship with Jesus in order to find out what our faith is made of. I can think of several of you who I personally know and the storms that Jesus has lead you through and how it has reinforced your faith. I too have been tossed about in a violent storm and the only thing I knew to do was to call out to Jesus. I’ve had my share of nights where the only thing that brought my mind enough peace was to sleep with an open Bible on my bed and my hand literally resting on God’s promises. I’ve had days when anxiety was so great within me that the only thing that could keep the negative thinking at bay was to read Scripture out loud for hours on end.

 

If you are not currently experiencing a storm, then now is the time to make sure that you are in the Word daily and living out your faith while the waters are calm. 2 Timothy 1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

 

If you are living through a storm right now, hang on tight. Hebrews 4:14 encourages us with this: “Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess.”

 

I many not know the details of your personal storm, but I do know the One who is powerful enough to keep our boats from overturning. And He certainly will bring you through to the other side. Believe. Trust. Love. Obey.

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

Calm in the Storm

Mark 4-6

mark 4

Tuesday, May 9

Do you like the power of a storm or are you terrified by that power? Are you one to sit on the porch and watch as a thunderstorm rolls in or run for cover when it is forecasted? I have always been captivated by the incredible power of a storm. I love to feel the temperature change as the front rolls in, you can almost feel the electric in the air as the lightning gets closer and closer. As I watch a storm moving in I can’t help but think of the fact that as powerful as the storm is it cannot come close to the power of our creator. The storm rages in its fury and is uncontrolled as the lightning strikes and the thunder crashes. God is powerful and in control, He put His power to use as He spoke and the universe came into existence.

 

As we read of the storm in Mark 4 we find that this storm raged on and on.  We can almost see the disciples frantically running around the boat trying to secure everything and keep the boat afloat while our Messiah quietly sleeps in the stern. As the disciples rush to wake him and ask how he could be sleeping at a time like this he calmly says to the sea, “Hush, be still.” The wind stops, the waves calm and they go peacefully through the rest of their journey. Sometimes I think we are like the disciples, we get so worked up over what is happening around us that we forget who is living in our hearts. We forget that Jesus has promised that he will never leave us. We forget that God has called us for a purpose. We forget that even if we don’t survive this storm, we have the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In the storms of life never lose sight of the One who holds you! Never lose sight of the one who can either calm the storm or calm you!

-Bill Dunn

 

(Photo Credit:http://thedailyverses.blogspot.com/2013/09/mark-440-isaiah-4110.html)

 

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